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Reducing Deforestation could Decrease Carbon Emissions by a Fifth

Jun 07, 2014 05:32 AM EDT

Saving trees would reduce carbon dioxide emission by a fifth, new study suggests.

According to the researchers, tropical forests absorb some two billion tons of carbon, which is equivalent to a fifth of world's carbon emissions. The trees store the carbon in their barks and leaves. Human activities such as logging and forest fires significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers said that if reducing deforestations could cut carbon emission levels by a fifth.

The study was conducted by researchers at Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds. The team analyzed data from previous research to estimate the amount of carbon absorption by tropical forests around the world.

"Forest census data from an Amazon-wide network of forest plots, maintained by the Universities of Leeds and Oxford, played a critical part in the analysis," said Professor Emanuel Gloor, a co-author of the study from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, according to a news release.

Tropical forests cover just six percent of the land on Earth, yet their soils trap around 30 percent of all carbon, making them an important carbon sink.

Forests in South and Central America along with those from Africa and Asia could become major sources of carbon emission in the future. According to the researchers, a warmer earth will lead to higher rate of plant decomposition, which will increase carbon levels in the atmosphere.

By 2999, global temperature will rise by two to three degrees, which will lead to tropical forests increasing their carbon emissions.

"If we limit human activity in the tropical forests of the world, this could play a valuable role in helping to curb the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Preventing further losses of carbon from our tropical forests must remain a high priority," said John Grace of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, according to a news release.

The study was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council Global Change Biology and is published in the journal Global Change Biology.

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